Can Hiking Outdoors Change Your Mental Health – Money Pacers
Can Hiking Outdoors Change Your Mental Health

Can Hiking Outdoors Change Your Mental Health

Looking for a way to get in shape while enjoying the great outdoors? Just lace up a pair of rugged shoes and start hiking outdoors.  Exercise is a very good stress reliever in any form, including hiking, and can also reduce insomnia, leading to better mental health. Hiking might help you feel closer to nature and natural rhythms, which may increase your happiness and help you feel more fulfilled.

Healthwise, walking outdoors is not only good for the heart, it’s good for depression too, giving you almost an instant feeling of calm and contentment.  Many people often find themselves consumed by negative thoughts, which takes out the enjoyment of living in the moment.  At best it leads you down a path to depression and anxiety at worst. But a recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that spending time outdoors can significantly decrease obsessive, negative thoughts.

The researchers concluded that living in urban environments closely correlates with increased instances of depression and other mental illness. Taking the time to regularly remove yourself from city settings and spending more time in nature can greatly benefit your mental and physical well-being.

Hiking In Nature Boosts Brainpower

We already know that exercising is fantastic for our overall well-being. Hiking is an excellent way to burn between 400 – 700 calories per hour, depending on your size and hike difficulty, and it is easier on the joints than other activities like running. It has also been proven that people who exercise outside are more likely to keep at it and stick to their programs, making hiking an excellent choice for those wishing to become more active on a regular basis.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia found that aerobic exercise increases hippocampal volume — the part of the brain associated with spatial and episodic memory — in women over the age of 70.  The study showed exercise not only improves memory loss but helps prevent it as well. Researchers also noted that it helped reduce stress and anxiety, boost self-esteem, and release endorphins. Many people take medication to solve each and every one of these issues, but it seems the solution to these ills is a lot simpler!

Hiking Outdoors Can Improve ADHD In Children

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is becoming more and more common among children. Children who have ADHD have a difficult time with impulse control and staying focused, they get distracted easily, and exhibit excessive hyperactivity. Raising children with ADHD can be difficult for parents, the usual solution — opting for prescription medication — well this may be doing more harm than good, particularly when natural solutions can work just as well. A study conducted by Frances E Kup, Ph.D., and Andrea Faber Taylor, Ph.D., found that exposing children with ADHD to “green outdoor activities” reduces symptoms significantly. The results of this study suggest hiking outdoors in nature can benefit anyone who exhibits impulsive behavior or has a difficult time paying attention.

Outdoor Hiking Promotes Physical Health

Hiking is a great exercise because it is easy to adjust to any level of fitness. Outdoor hiking can be on a level, well-maintained path, or up a pathless mountain. This makes it excellent for people who are hoping to improve their fitness, as they can simply take more and more difficult hikes. Losing weight is another benefit of hiking. This is particularly true of hiking uphill, as this can burn similar amounts of calories to jogging. Exercise can help reduce insulin resistance in both the short and long term.

As hiking puts pressure on your bones, it encourages healthy bone structure and reduces the chances of osteoporosis. Being exposed to the sunshine will also increase your levels of vitamin D. Hiking is a cardiovascular activity, depending on how hard you push yourself during a hike, and thus has benefits for your cardiovascular system, such as reducing the chances of heart disease, and increasing your overall fitness.

Start Hiking Today!

Luckily, hiking outdoors is one of the easiest and least expensive sports to get involved in, and it can have great benefits for the entire family, including the family pet! Start out small and test your abilities.  Do what works for you — if that means just walking through trails in a park, that’s fine. Any exercise outdoors is better than none. You can easily find maps of trails around your home online, and there are plenty of smartphone apps to map them out, too.  Carry your phone while hiking, listening to soothing music or meditation music can be most beneficial to your health. Also, carry it with you in the case of emergency.

Make sure you have some good strong hiking shoes (women & men’s), a hat, and a water bottle.  Layer your clothing so you can take things on or off easily as you warm up and cool down. You may want to consider using trekking poles as well, which can increase your speed and take some of the pressure off your knees.  Now, you can just do one thing after you’re done with this read –

go take a hike!

Don Briscoe
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Don Briscoe

Finance educator, advisor, and leading voice in the global financial literacy movement.Founder and editor of MoneyPacers.com.He lives and enjoys life with his family in New York.
Don Briscoe
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